On our first day, he lends me clippers and
a belt, gives me a few pointers like, "Take out the ones that are
growing straight up, and the ones hanging down," and "Leave the
ones growing to the side," and
we set to work. Soon he also begins to teach me how to recognize the new
buds and cut back to those.
Mr. Tagawa is a calm, quiet presence. Many people here become nervous
around foreigners, but I am the 3rd foreigner that Mr. Tagawa has worked
with, and he is used to it. Although there are still very few Japanese
women in landscaping, it seems not to be an issue that I'm one.
In fact, Mr. Tagawa trusts me more than I'm
comfortable with, given my huge level of ignorance about these trees. And
I try to compensate by being extra careful. But even so, I worry about
what this tree will look like when it grows out in a few months. I keep
hoping that since Mr. Tagawa is working across from me, he's keeping an
eye on what I'm doing, but I'm never sure. When I start feeling really
lost about where to cut, I call him over and ask for advice.
Our pine-trimming lessons have continued mostly in this vein: a few instructions,
a lot of practice, and little feedback. However, some days we just stay
in his office, poring over a few of his many garden texts.
Besides being an expert on trees, Mr. Tagawa
is very interested in the history and philosophy of Japanese gardens. I
teach him a little English as we go along, because one of his goals is
to make a garden in the U.S. someday.
Over time, I've had several other unique opportunities. When garden design
expert Yotaro Ono was invited to speak to the local association, a few
of us were given the chance to visit private gardens that he had designed
in Kyoto. I was also invited to design a small garden for the yearly landscape
design exhibit (with all materials and labor generously provided by Mr.